Saturday, August 08, 2009

To Kenny Harrison, wherever you may be

Tonight I am grateful to all the people who have made me a better person than whoever I was when I met them. Of course there are many. There are some, like my mom, whose influence is immeasurable. There are teachers, and mentors. Jeffrey makes me a much more patient person. Paul makes me a better friend. And I'm thankful for all of them.

Specifically, I'm thinking of Kenny Harrison, who unknowingly changed me in an instant. It was a million and a half years ago, and I was a graphics intern at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. He was a talented illustrator in the department.

It was a tumultuous summer for me, professionally and personally. When I broke up with my boyfriend, Kenny asked, "Are you OK?" He said it with genuine, full-eyed concern, even though he'd only known me for a week. I was taken aback by his effortless gesture. I know it seems like nothing, but no one else who found out asked me that. It helped teach me how to be open and show caring, even to someone I don't know very well. It taught me the first question to ask.

I heard that question come out of my mouth tonight. My friend had gone on a surprise date-like social engagement with a guy she LIKES. SO MUCH. And even though I was so excited for her, I knew that the beginning of an undefined relationship can be difficult and confusing. So I called and -- among other things -- asked her if she was OK. And she said, "Oh, Judy, I love you." And I knew that she loved the person I had become in the summer of 1996 because of one question from Kenny Harrison.

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